Then Now Next Thursday (May 7, 2015)

How to Be a HeroineTHEN

blew through How to Be a Heroine over the week, although I seriously wondered if Samatha Ellis only ever read classics growing up. Review to come later. I had a busy offline week.

NOW

On a reading memoir kick from How to Be a Heroine, I picked up Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. It’s … okay. I don’t find it as witty or as well researched as Heroine, but I also haven’t put it down yet. It’s easy to read, a series of small (aptly named…) “book reports” on a theme, like kids in danger or supernatural powers. I was hoping for a little more research and self reflection, but you can’t win ’em all.

NEXT

This week blew by me pretty quickly because it was a vacation, so I still have to start my #SecondChanceChallenge books, Pantomine and The Twistrose Key. Plus, I have a library meeting coming up tomorrow where we all get together and debate books until we can agree on a list of twenty(ish) picture, chapter, middle, and high school books for the upcoming school year reading program, and I always end up with a lot on my TBR shelf after that, even if not everything makes the shortlist.

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Then Now Next Thursday (April 30, 2015)

The Darkest Part of the Forest THEN

I finished reading (and reviewed) Virgin: The Untouched History. Since I last posted a round up, I’ve also started and finished Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest. That’s the quickest I’ve finished a fiction book, like, all year. I’m just having such a hard time concentrating, but man, it’s so good.

NOW

I’ve been really into nonfiction this year, so I read the intro to Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, but then found that I wasn’t really interested in the stories, so I put it down and picked up How to be a Heroine, which I like a lot, even though I haven’t read most of these classics, except Anne of Green Gables.

NEXT

Karen Jensen on Teen Librarian Toolbox proposed the #SecondChanceChallenge, to give a book you dropped a second chance. I signed up and said I would try to read and finish The Twistrose Key and Shadowplay. Both were very good (like, I loved Pantomime, which is the first book in Shadowplay‘s series) but just not what I was looking for at the time, so I’ll give them both another chance.

Irregular Review: Virgin: The Untouched History

Virgin: The Untouched HistoryVirgin: The Untouched History
Hanne Blank
★★☆☆☆ (It was OK.)

Goodreads summary:

Why has an indefinable state of being commanded the attention and fascination of the human race since the dawn of time? In Virgin, Hanne Blank brings us a revolutionary, rich and entertaining survey of an astonishing untouched history.

From the simple task of determining what constitutes its loss to why it matters to us in the first place, Blank gets to the heart of why we even care about it in the first place. She tackles the reality of what we do and don’t know about virginity and provides a sweeping tour of virgins in history–from virgin martyrs to Queen Elizabeth to billboards in downtown Baltimore telling young women it’s not a “dirty word.” Virgin proves, as well, how utterly contemporary the topic is–the butt of innumerable jokes, center of spiritual mysteries, locus of teenage angst, popular genre for pornography and nucleus around which the world’s most powerful government has created an unprecedented abstinence policy. In this fascinating work, Hanne Blank shows for the first time why this is, and why everything we think we know about virginity is wrong.

While I was reading, a friend stopped by on my personal blog to ask how I was liking Virgin: The Untouched History. I told her, truthfully, that it was okay.

The Good

I like this kind of book, that examines, in detail, something everyday that we take for granted: cupcakes, harsh language, virginity, whatever. Virgin was a quick history of Western civilization from ancient Greek and Roman through Judaism and the rise Christianity, and then then advent of capitalism and urbanization through the lens of virginity. Interesting!

I also have a personal interest in this topic. I’m asexual; I’ve never been kissed. I wanted to read this and contextualize it in history. Blank covers it a bit towards the end, but virginity today gets a bad rap as “repressed” and associated with the heavy handed ideology of “abstinence-only education.” So what about holy virgins, Vestals and nuns?

The Bad

Virgin: The Untouched History was interesting, but not quite as interesting as I hope. Blank failed to strike an either properly academic tone (no footnotes, a casual writing style) or the jocular, chatty style of Mary Roach (Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex) or Melissa Mohr (Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing). The attempts at humor fell flat, and detracted from the text as authoritative. (I’m not questioning her research, only her presentation.)

My other concern with this book was the hetero- and cis-sexism. I understand that the historical record might be thin about gay, lesbian, and bisexual virginities, and the virginities of trans people, but it can’t be empty. Even so, there is more recent writing on these subjects that warranted inclusion in the later chapters. There was a brief mention of a lesbian woman who sold her (penis-in-vagina) virginity, which would have benefitted from some exploration. Then at the end was a quote about stone butch lesbians, but it wasn’t explored, either. There was no mention of asexuality.

The Verdict

All I can say about Virgin: The Untouched History is “it’s okay.” If this is a topic that interests you, check it out. (I wouldn’t recommend spending money on it.) Otherwise, there are other, better popular nonfiction books that I’d recommend unless you have a particular interest in virginity. If you are, you’re in good company: virginity has been with humanity since the dawn of time.

If you’re not, I would suggest Holy Sh*t or Bonk instead.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Multimedia

Pokémon The First MovieEvery week at Reading is Fun Again, Pamela posts a discussion topic. This week, she asks:

Assuming that you are late to the party with a book series (and the entire series is completed) and you want to read every piece of text within a series’ universe that you can get your hands on, in what order to you read the books, short stories, and novellas within the universe?

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever jumped into a story that takes place across this many formats before! The only one I can think of is Pokémon, way back in the day; I collected the cards, watched the anime, then played the video game. I don’t think that “counts,” though, because the video games and the anime have different continuities entirely.

When I read Dark Tower, I started (and ended) with the books. I know there are graphic novel expansions and adaptations, but I’ve never read either; the art isn’t my style, and they’re so expensive. I think the books are the “main canon,” anyway; the other stuff is mostly extra. I would suggest someone reading it the first time skip The Wind in the Keyhole, because it wasn’t part of the original series, and save it for last.

Dark TowerI think, were I to start in a series with this many diverse media, I would figure out what was intended to be the main story. Is it a book series with a graphic novel spinoff? Then I would read the book series – in chronological order, of course – and the the graphic novels, or short stories. If it was a graphic novel series with some books on the side, then I would start with the graphic novels, and so on.

I always took great delight in reading things in the proper order. So much that I read all of Redwall in publication order to date (up to Taggerung) and then again, in in-universe chronological order, just to be perfectly sure. It was very satisfying.

Honestly, though, sometimes when I see that there’s so much for me to read, it scares me off a little bit. This is why I’ll probably never read/play/watch Homestuck. It’s like the thing that never ends! Talk about  archive panic, right? Which is too bad, because hypertext fiction, meta, and multiple media are all things that really interest me, but then when it’s time to sit down and actually read all of that, I start worrying about all of the other things I could be reading.

Then Now Next Thursday (April 23, 2015)

Let's Eat RamenTHEN

I’m back to bouncing around from one thing to another and never finishing a book. It’s very frustrating, but I just can’t focus! I did manage to finish Let’s Eat Ramen, a manga dojinshi collection. Maybe I should stick to graphic novels for now?

NOW

Currently, I’m reading the only kind of book it feels like I can finish lately, a cultural history. This one is called Virgin: The Untouched History. It’s no Holy Sh*t, but I’m enjoying it well enough to keep reading. I love learning more about concepts we take for granted, like virginity, or swearing, or cupcakes.

I’m still reading The Story Thieves, but the going is slow because 1) it’s kind of boring? which is a huge letdown because I loved the premise, and 2) I’m taking extensive notes on craft while I read, because I’m trying to improve as a writer, and because I love the concept of the book, but it’s just not working for me and I’m trying to figure out why (so I don’t make the same mistake)


Story ThievesNEXT

Well, if the sun ever comes out again, it will be spring/early summer, which is, in my opinion, the (second) best time (after New Year’s) to (re)read Weetzie Bat or Witch Baby or Baby Be-bop, or maybe all three. (I have the whole Dangerous Angels collection, but I don’t care much for either Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys or Missing Angel Juan.)

I have a library meeting coming up the week after next where we’ll get together and argue about books (it’s one of my favorite days of the school year), so I’m sure my TBR will get some substantial additions for summer reading, regardless of what we decide makes the final cut.

Then Now Next Thursday (April 2, 2015)

The WhisperI decided to make up a weekly check-in since the demise of both What Are You Reading? Wednesdays and What’s Up? Wednesdays.

THEN

I recently finished reading Aaron Starmer’s The Whisper, second book of three in the Riverman TrilogyHoly Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr; and since we’re reading poetry books in library class to celebrate National Poetry Month, I read Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo with my students. They can vote on The Gruffalo or a selection of dinosaur-themed poems; votes have overwhelmingly gone to The Gruffalo in every class so far this week.

NOW

I picked up Story Thieves, by James Riley, when I finished Holy Sh*tI knew after enjoying a nonfiction book that much, I’d need to switch genre tracks, so I went for MG meta fantasy. Then I got really into writing a detailed annotation of Story Thieves, but I needed something to just read on the train, so I went back to Iron-Hearted Violet after literally months hiatus in the middle of the book.

Iron Hearted VioletI don’t know why I had to press pause on this book. It’s so good. Maybe it was too good. Sometimes, if I’m not in a good headspace and something is too beautiful, it hurts and I just can’t. Well, I picked it back up, and it’s so beautiful and so perfect. Iron-Hearted Violet is everything.

NEXT

What I really want to read is the third volume of the Riverman Trilogy, but not only has it not been released, there’s not even any title, release date, or cover! Rude. I really need to know what happens to Aquavania before I can decide wether or not I liked The Riverman and The Whisper.

Seeing as I can’t have that, instead I’m going to finish up the books I’m reading (including The Silmarillion) and I got really excited about The Great Beanie Baby Bubble when I first heard about it on BookRiot.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke & The Bookish. This week, we’re talking about “Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To.” I’ve said it before, but I don’t usually keep up with this stuff. That being said, there were a bunch of things that came out in 2014 that I really meant to read and then didn’t (or started and then dropped, or only just heard about but started reading immediately), so this list wasn’t as difficult to create as it might have been, because 2014 was a good year for books.

  1. Island of Excess LoveThe Half-Life of Molly Pierce, Katrina Leno Isn’t this the one where the girl has Dissasociative Identity Disorder? I’m super curious to read about it, for a whole bunch of reasons, and I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to it earlier, except that the opportunity never presented itself? This one is definitely still on my list.
  2. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton Another one where I’m not sure why I didn’t read it, because it sounds like something right up my alley (and vaguely reminiscent of Skellig), and it has a beautiful cover. Another one I plan to read eventually, for what it’s worth.
  3. The Island of Excess Love, Francesca Lia Block There is a certain kind of teenage girl who loves Witch Baby. I was that kind of teenage girl, so when I heard about Love in the Time of Global Warming, I snapped it up immediately. I don’t usually “do” apocalypse stories, but the idea of an Odyssey retelling starring a girl named Penelope was too much to risk missing out. Now there’s another one, this time a retelling of the Aeneid? I’m still not sure why I never read this last year.
  4. Prince LestatGretel and the Dark, Eliza Granville Probably I haven’t read this one because anything set around the era of Nazi Germany is bound to be pretty dark (it’s even right there in the title), but it’s about the power of stories, and if there’s something I can’t resist, it’s the power of stories. So I’ll definitely give this one a read when I get the chance.
  5. Something Real, Heather Demetrios Something about this just really appeals to me. I’m really curious if the “Bakers Dozen” family is a fundamentalist family (like the Duggars) or just happen to have a lot of kids? ‘Cause if it’s about her escaping the Quiverfull cult, then I definitely want to read it, but either way, I won’t turn it down if it comes by my way.
  6. A Thousand Pieces of You, Claudia Grey I love a good multiverse, ever since I read The Golden Compass in fifth or sixth grade, but I took it off of my list because I wasn’t sure that I’d be interested in reading a love story about Marguerite and Paul, which, knowing YA, would probably take center stage over the far more interesting and important fact of multiple universes.
  7. Jackaby, William Ritter I always love a well-crafted speculative historical fiction story that could logically fit into the actual events. Jack the Ripper still hasn’t been conclusively identified, and perhaps at this point, never will be… So why shouldn’t it be the work of some mysterious supernatural creature? It’s not my usual thing (a little to horror-y for my taste) but the cover did catch my eye last year.
  8. RivermanHollow City, Ransom Riggs I started reading this one but ultimately dropped it because the talking dog was too freaking weird for me, and not in the general way that Miss Peregrine’s is weird. Still, I wish I could have gone through it because the first one was so cool. I really love the conceit of the book being told around found photographs, but I just wish author hadn’t found the photograph of the dog with the hat.
  9. Prince Lestat, Anne Rice I got pretty far into this one before admitting that I was bored. (It needs more Armand and Marius.) Usually, I wouldn’t count a dropped book as something I “missed,” but I would like to get the rest of the way through it. I like knowing what Lestat is up to in the 21st century, even if it means slogging through bits about vampires I don’t know.
  10. The Riverman, Alex Starmer Does it count if you didn’t even hear about this book at all until 2015 and are currently reading it? Oh, well. I’ll put it here anyway, because as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to read it, like, immediately, for a whole bunch of reasons and so far, it has not been a disappointment.